Career fairs are one of the very few places where hundreds of employers gather under one roof to recruit new employees. With the job-hunting season in full swing—particularly for those of you graduating this spring – these can be great events to help you evaluate your career options. But with hundreds of job seekers who will be there trying to land a job, the competition is tough. So you’ll need to take full advantage of this opportunity to get yourself noticed.
Here are some tips to help you prepare and maximize your experience:
- Know Your Audience. Find out which companies will be attending and do thorough research beforehand. Prioritize the companies you want to see and check their websites in advance for any open positions that you think you would be a good fit for. Be ready to engage in conversations about your qualifications and work experience and avoid questions such as “Are you hiring?” Companies are there for that exact reason.
- Bring Your Résumé. A 1-page résumé is best and should be handed to every employer you meet. Make sure it’s clear, concise and highlights your skills and experience. Employers won’t have time to thoroughly review your résumé at the event, so put your key skills up front and center. This will help them make a quick assessment of your background and abilities.
- Create a 30-Second Pitch. You’ll be faced with a 30-second race to introduce yourself, and, more importantly, talk about how your skills and background could be a fit for the company. Prepare and rehearse examples ahead of time so that it flows naturally. Highlight your accomplishments and added value such as any volunteer work, internship or extra-curricular activities, and speak with confidence.
- Be Proactive. To show your interest in the organization, ask the company representatives savvy questions about their company, projects, and profile of their ideal candidates, such as “What kind of skills, characteristics and experience do you look for in a candidate?”
Treat the career fair like a job interview. Dress professionally as if you were going to an interview, project a positive attitude and interact courteously with everyone you meet. Use every encounter to your advantage – introduce yourself, shake hands and share a little about who you are and what you have to offer (aka your 30-second pitch). Make sure to leave your résumé with every employer and ask for their business card so that you can follow up at a later date. If you promised to provide an employer with additional details, make sure you jot it down on your pad or tablet, and follow up via e-mail or telephone no later than a week after the event.
And don’t forget to send a thank you note. A follow-up letter or email restates your interest and serves as a reminder of who you are when the hiring process gets started. All of these things can make a big difference in helping you to distinguish yourself as an ideal candidate and make a positive impression on prospective employers.
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